Long beloved for its distinct, powerful essence and ability to make a pizza pop, oregano may soon have a second-shift gig that could help combat climate change. A research team in Denmark is exploring the potential of oregano to reduce the rate at which cows are burping, an act of gaseous relief that also releases methane into the atmosphere. Methane is an exceptionally potent greenhouse gas, more than 25 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. Over a third of global methane emissions are produced through livestock farming. Curbing the emission of methane from bovine sources could make a significant difference in mitigating the impact of climate change.
Oregano’s magic anti-belching properties are rooted in its essential oils content. “Oregano has essential oils with a mild antimicrobial called carvacrol, which can kill some of the bacteria in the cow’s rumen that produce methane,” says Kai Grevsen, senior crop science researcher at Aarhus University. Grevsen says that the team will use Greek oregano, a variety of the herb that contains a higher level of these essential oils, in its experiment to demonstrate oregano’s promise. The study is scheduled to run through 2019.
The reduction of bovine belching may yield an added bonus for dairy lovers and sellers. “A cow loses a lot of energy in releasing all this methane,” says Grevsen. “By blocking the bacteria, the energy that doesn’t get lost can be used by the cow to produce more milk.” Grevsen speculates that oregano may alter the structure of fatty acids in the milk, making for a higher quality drink. With public and private financial support and an impressive local organic market (30 percent of all milk in Denmark is organic), Denmark is a well suited place to demonstrate the potential of oregano and dairy. Likewise, Denmark has an equal stake in addressing climate change, which threatens the low-laying country with devastating sea level rise.